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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Or of a Scottish Christian Gipsy gentlewoman


illustrious pilgrim had many indignities cast upon him, by the lower and unthinking classes of the population, and by Quakers and strict Baptists. 'Twas a man like John Owen who knew how to appreciate and respect him; for, said he to Charles II.: "I would readily part with all my learning, could I but preach like the tinker." And what was it that supported Bunyan, amid all the abuse and obloquy to which he was exposed, as he obeyed the call of God, and preached the gospel, in season and out of season, to every creature around him? When they sneered at his origin, and the occupation from which he had risen, he said: "Such insults I freely bind unto me, as an ornament, among the rest of my reproaches, till the Lord shall wipe them off at his coming." And again: "The poor Christian hath something to answer them that reproach him for his ignoble pedigree, and shortness of the glory of the wisdom of this world. I fear God. This is the highest and most noble; he hath the honour, the life, and glory that is lasting."[323]

[323] That the rabble, or "fellows of the baser sort," should have pelted Bunyan with all sorts of offensive articles, when he commenced to preach the gospel, is what could naturally have been expected; but it sounds strange to read what he has put on record of the abuse heaped upon him, by people professing to be the servants of Him "in whom there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female." See with what

Christian humility he alludes to such treatment, as contrasted with the manly indignation which he displayed in repelling slanders. He speaks of "the Lord wiping off such insults at his coming;" when his enemies, with the utmost familiarity and assurance, may approach the judgment-seat, and demand their crowns. "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" And it may be answered unto them: "I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

In Great Britain, the off-scourings of the earth can say who they are, and no prejudices are entertained against them. Half-caste Hindoos, Malays, Hottentots, and Negroes, are "sent home," to be educated, and made pets of, and have the choice of white women given to them for wives; but the children of a Scottish Christian Gipsy gentleman, or of a Scottish Christian Gipsy gentlewoman, dare not say who they are, were it almost to save their lives. Scottish people will wonder at what caste in India can mean, deplore its existence, and pray to God to remove it, that "the gospel may have free course and be glorified;" yet scowl--silently and sullenly scowl--at the bare mention of John Bunyan having been a Gipsy! Scottish religious journals will not tolerate the idea to appear in their columns! To such people I would say, Offer up no more prayers to Almighty God, to remove caste from India, until they themselves have removed from the land this prejudice of caste, that hangs like an incubus upon so many of their fellow-subjects at home. It is quite time enough to carry such petitions to the Deity, when every Scottish Gipsy can make a return of himself in the census, or proclaim himself a Gipsy at the cross, or from the house-top, if need be; or, at least, after steps have been taken by the public to that end. But some of my countrymen may say: "What are we to do, under the circumstances?" And I reply: "Endeavour to be yourselves, and judge of this subject as it ought to be judged. You can, at least, try to guard against your children acquiring your own prejudices." To the rising town generation, I would look with more hope to see a better feeling entertained for the name of Gipsy. But I look with more confidence to the English than Scottish people; for this question of "folk" is very apt to rankle and fester in the Scottish mind. I wish, then, that the British, and more especially the Scottish, public should consider itself as cited before the bar of the world, and not only the bar of the world, but the bar of posterity, to plead on the Gipsy question, that it may be seen if this is the only instance in which justice is not to be done to a part of the British population. With the evidence furnished in the present work, I submit the name of Bunyan, as a case in point, to test the principle at issue. Let British people beware how they approach this subject, for there are great principles involved in it. The social emancipation of the Gipsies is a question which British people have to consider for the future.

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